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I'm a big tennis fan and I recently picked up a copy of John McEnroe's 'Serious' after wanting to know more about tennis history. The autobiography was first published in 2002 but is just as readable now. McEnroe is one of the great characters of the tennis world and one that although I was always aware of whilst growing up did not know all that much about. Distorted tabloid stories and endless mimicry of his infamous temper tantrums were all I could associate him with since I was a little too young to remember his most significant achievements in the game during the late seventies and early eighties.
This autobiography is available in both paperback and hardback. I have the hardback version which looks and feels more impressive than the paperback. It's a weighty 346 pages and includes two inserts of photographs which he feels are most important to accompany the text.
The book opens with McEnroe's experiences of 9/11. The book's publication was around the same period of time and the fact that the McEnroe family were living in New York at the time makes it an especially significant story. We hear so many stories now about what people were doing on that day or how they reacted or what a near miss they had. They are all important stories that shock and hypnotize us because we all understand in one way or another that the world changed completely on that day. McEnroe's account of the day is another amazing and surreal report that instantly tells us a lot about the man because of his thoughts and actions on that horrific day.
McEnroe then tells us how he came to be living the life he has now, what his current employment is (he is a prolific and well respected commentator now) and then reels back in time to reveal to us, piece by piece, his life in the game. The writing style is very engrossing and you can really hear McEnroe talking through the text. It's the perfect writing style, brimming with attitude and with a slight conversational style, to expose McEnroe's true character.
What I loved most about the autobiography was learning about McEnroe's journey to the top and then his subsequent fall from glory as a natural part of the game. It's the same story that every top ranked tennis player must live through. All of the pride and excitement that follows the hard work to reach number one status or Grand Slam champion eventually followed by the slip sliding road to retirement. Grad Slam Wonderboy to the guy who consistently loses in the first round to the new generation of hard hitters. We hear a lot about the glorious achievements of guys when they hit the top but we don't always hear the story about the road back down. Reading McEnroe's take on it felt like I was reading about a personal tragedy and it kind of broke my heart to hear his feelings and thoughts about what it's like to have to finally admit you are no longer 'in the game'.
There is a lot of interesting facts and revelations about McEnroe's personal life too. His true relationships with other tennis players is a no holds barred expose whilst he is frank (if noticeably courteous) regarding his relationships with wives Tatum O'Neal and Patty Smyth. If you are a big tennis fan then you'll laugh and gasp and maybe cry at some of the stories about some of the other high profile players who were on the tour with McEnroe.
One further interesting aspect about the book is McEnroe's rock n' roll dream which is a notion he never lets go of throughout the whole autobiography. Clearly, the guy wishes he had somehow managed to become a rock star of Bruce Springsteen status and the descriptions of his attempts to live his dream post tennis career are amusing in part and part awe-inspiring.
This is one of the most entertaining and honest autobiographies I have ever read. It contains just the right balance between career stories and personal ones. The writing leaps from the page as if McEnroe is actually speaking to us. The text is engrossing from the first sentence to the end of the book where Mac compiles personal lists on how to "improve tennis" and his "personal rock n' roll moments".
It's a must read if you are a tennis fan or if you love reading autobiographies of notable public figures. This book does not disappoint. I'm serious!
My favourite type of book has to be an autobiography. I don't read many books and when I do my genre of choice is autobiography. Whether it is true or not, I like the insight into peoples life and it is almost a world away from your world. To top it all off, autobiographies come with a set of pictures that you wouldn't normally have and I have to control my urge to view the pictures straightaway rather than wait till I get to that section of the book. That is a lot of fun for me.
This is John McEnroe's autobiography, published in 2002 and there were two things that drew me towards this. Firstly, my passion and fascination of tennis meant this is a must have and secondly, I felt that John McEnroe's life definitely warrants an autobiography. You feel that after all of this time and after a tumultuous and glittering professional career, a couple of marriages and a subsequent career this is definitely the time in your life to write an autobiography. In fact this autobiography developed from a newspaper article.
The front cover on mine is slightly different to the one shown here. My edition shows a half-lit picture of John McEnroe, with the left half of the picture hidden in darkness on the right hand side of the cover. The title and author are depicted in the bottom left (might be because I have an Australian copy). This picture made me smile, especially as I noticed John's earring on his left ear. Personally, I don't think it suits him, but then it his choice.
I expect you all know who John McEnroe is, but just in case you don't John McEnroe is the original Super Brat of the tennis world. A New Yorker from Queens famous for on-court outbursts borne out of passion for his game but an extremely talented tennis player who dominated the men's game during the 80s.
The book is constructed slightly different to most autobiographies I have read. There are 14 chapters but none of the chapters are titled. Being a New Yorker, the book begins with John recollecting September 11 2001, returning back to recollect key moments in John's career, private life and post-retirement career. The book covers about 25 years of John McEnroe's life. I won't explain every chapter, otherwise there would be no point reading the book.
The style of the book is written in the first person in a way where it seems John is just talking to you and recounting the significant moments of his life. It is told in an honest and candid way, as if a friend is speaking to you and sharing their secret moments. McEnroe himself says of the book, he is "thinking out loud" so this book does not seem overly polished.
What is very evident as you read the book is John's passion for tennis. He explains his on-court outbursts as part of being a driven player and wanting to succeed. A lot of people thought this behaviour was a stalling egotistical tactic or a tactic to put his opponent off but he genuinely thought he was fighting for what is right and it had nothing to do with the opponent. A lot of people would probably think that John was just a tennis player who got overheated at times, but this book explains the person behind that. Behind the glitz, glamour and glory is just an ordinary person of ordinary means. There are numerous moments in the book where John even makes fun if himself and his outrageous behaviour.
I know some autobiographies do not have the credentials to call themselves a life story, but the amount of drama that has unfolded in this book and as part of John's life makes for very good reading. Will this be a movie? I don't see how this could be made into a movie and remain as good as the book. I never got to see John McEnroe live as I was too young and I am a bit disappointed, but having him on TV commentating on a match is the next best thing. John McEnroe has a no-nonsense approach to commentating and that shows in this book, reinforcing his credibility even further.
There are a fair amount of pictures included within the book covering John's tennis playing career, his current family, as well as some celebrity shots. Strangely enough all the pictures are in black & white.
I bought this book in Australia in 2002 and it took me only a few days to read this. A thoroughly engrossing, engaging and absorbing read. 5 stars for the honest, reflective, non-egotistical recollection of a varied professional and private life. My love of the book stems from my interest in tennis iteself. I imagine for those not into tennis or sport it may not be everyones cup of tea, but I still think you should give it a go.
You can pick this up for £5.99 on Amazon. My review title is courtesy of those immortal words spoken by John during his career.
~~~ OTHER INFORMATION ~~~
* John McEnroe turned 50 this year on February 16 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY John
* Seven Grand Slam singles titles, with a total of 99 titles
* World Number 1 for 4 years
ISBN: 0316860883 (paperback)
Author: John McEnroe
Thank you for reading. This review may be posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2009